Money Talks

New technology helps visually impaired hear ATM transactions

For most of us, going to the ATM is a breeze. But for the visually impaired, it can challenging. One company may have solved that problem. Triton has developed “talking” ATMs. You may have seen a freestanding one at your local deli or gas station. The company has been rolling them out all across the country since late last year. But before debuting the latest versions of the 9700 series, engineers at the Long Beach, Mississippi, firm got input from members of the disabled community in an effort to meet existing, as well as proposed, regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“There is a lot of discussion going on about older ATMs, and how much of a burden it would be for banks and other financial institutions to upgrade them in the near future. If we wait long enough, all of the old machines will, of course, go away and be replaced by newer machines — hopefully, equipped with voice guidance,” says Curtis Chong, director of technology for the National Federation of the Blind.

The new ATMs feature an audio port for the visually impaired and offer the ability to perform private audio transactions using text-to-speech synthesis via headphones. It also features a shorter, ADA compliant cabinet for wheelchair access, and a brighter LCD transaction screen with a wider viewing angle.

For Chong, developments such as these are long overdue. “While it is difficult to predict with 100% certainty what our federal government will do or regulate, we are fairly confident that there will come a time when all new or remodeled ATMs will be required to have voice guidance in them,” says Chong. “The banks want more time.

The industry has had 11 years [since legislation was passed] to take care of the problem. How much longer must we wait? When will the government finally issue its regulations?” It is not clear when — or if — the government will require ATM manufacturers to retrofit some 325,000 older machines nationwide, but Triton is redesigning a retrofit kit that will be available midyear.

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